It's been eight months since I last attended the weekly vigil in the park next to the J.C. Nichols fountain at 47th and Main in Kansas City. Working on elections to change the world sometimes takes precedence.
The bad news in the world today and the poor manner in which it's covered put me in a surly mood.
It's been a little over 1500 days (yeah, I keep track) since I first started doing this. I decide I'm going to drive the hour into the city and stand at the entrance of the Plaza with my signs. And so, I find myself again standing in the same place holding my "one nation, under surveillance" sign.
My preparation has changed a bit over the last four years. Experience has taught me the value of layers in cold weather. Still, I miscalculate the cold today. I carry ID, a cell phone, and a digital camera (handy - individuals tend to not escalate confrontations when they know they're being photographed). When I first started the camera was an inexpensive 35 mm job that allowed me to take mediocre pictures. Now, I have a compact high resolution digital camera which allows me to do the same. Now, my cell phone has a wireless earpiece which flashes a blue telltale every three seconds. When I first started out I didn't even have a cell phone. The signs are the same.
As I approach the park next to the Plaza I see that no one else is there. It's a half hour before the regularly scheduled start. I find a parking place, go over to the passenger side to get my things, hang my camera bag over my shoulder, put a down vest on, reconsider that, try to take off the down vest, get tangled in the strap, swear, finally get arranged, get my coat on, place my cell phone in an outer pocket, and finally, call the spouse to let her know I made it. I put on a wool cap. I grab my signs and head to the north side of 47th street.
It's cold. The wind is coming from the northwest (thankfully mostly to my back). I'm getting pelted with snow flurries. I had miscalculated the weather - I curse the weather forcasters - I had left my heavy winter gloves at home - I have lighter leather gloves on. So, there I am, standing alone with my sign, realizing that my hands are freezing, and cursing the world and the weather. I pull on my hood.
People driving by on 47th street start honking and waving.
For twenty minutes I'm on my own. I swivel, as if on a pedestal, to face the alternating waves of traffic coming from each direction. Then, slowly, at around 4:00 p.m., others start showing up. At its peak we have 20 people on the line. I meet and greet some old friends.
The local professional American rules football sports collective (an old joke - sue me) has a home game today. Their drunken fans should be coming into the Plaza for more drinking after the game ends. Right about now. In the past, they were fairly vicious to the pickets on the line. Now, they are subdued or supportive. Still, we get a number of birds and sour looks. A thumb down here and there. The vast majority of the reactions are positive. Peace signs. Thumbs up. A wave. A smile.
A car comes east out of the Plaza. The driver yells "I love bush. I love bush. I love bush." down the line.
It's New Year's Eve on the Plaza. Lots of wealthy people are driving in for the parties.
One well dressed young woman rolls down the window of her expensive car and calls out, "2006 is over. Why don't you celebrate the New Year?" On the picket line we all look at each other, then start laughing. Only, it's not really funny. Tell that to the Marines.
A car full of twenty somethings drives past us. They greet us with self confident smirks on their faces and extended middle fingers. I wonder why they haven't yet volunteered.
A drunken young sports fan, hanging out the passenger window, yells at me, slurring his speech, "Your sign doesn't make any sense!" I'm not quick enough to reply, "Drunk and stupid is no way to go through life, son."
The average age of everyone on the line must be close to 60. many have been here every week for over four years. One, obviously a pacifist, asks me, "Have you been trained in non-violence?" I think she's worried about me. I reply, "I can only say what Jesse Jackson once said. God is not finished with me yet." Relieved, she laughs.
A well dressed fifty something accompanied by a younger woman in an expensive two-door pulls to stop in front of me. The passenger side window comes down. The look on his face tells me that he's quite satisfied with himself. He's going to impress someone.
Mockingly, he calls out, "Do you have any republican literature?" "Do you have any republican literature?"
I wait a beat and I reply, "Nah, why would I? They're in the minority. And they're a bunch of losers."
The driver looks down - he can't come up with a response. The passenger smiles and starts to laugh. He smiles. The passenger window starts to come up. I start laughing. I give him a thumbs up and call out "Happy New Year". The car drives west into the plaza.
Yeah. Happy New Year.
At 5:00 p.m. I walk away from 47th street and head to my car for the hour long drive home.